Governor Charlie Baker, who campaigned on being a fiscal check to the Democratic super majority on Beacon Hill, said Monday he will sign the “Legislature’s version” of a bill that creates a new fee to help fund police training.
With Baker’s signature, the proposal will institute a $2 fee on car rental transactions across the state, putting up to $10 million annually toward training for local police. Baker aides did not say specifically when the Republican governor will pen the bill into law, but he must act on it by Saturday.
The governor’s support is notable, given that he campaigned on a pledge of not raising fees or taxes, yet has signed into law measures that did both. In explaining his decision, he also pointed to the recent deaths of police officers and a push by local police chiefs to beef up training statewide.
“Where we have a real urgency amongst our folks in law enforcement about this, I think our views is we should go ahead and accept the Legislature’s version as they submitted it, even though I would prefer not to raise fees,” Baker told reporters Monday.
He said he instead made a separate pitch to seed the state’s Municipal Police Training Committee with $8 million through a supplemental budget proposal. The Legislature has yet to act on the bill.
“The Legislature pursued this particular path,” he said of the fee.
When Baker campaigned in 2014, he framed himself as a fiscal check on the Legislature, and said Monday that despite acquiescing to state lawmakers on the new surcharge, he “can come up with a long list of things where we have managed to be quote-unquote a check.”
But the bill also created a political bind for the Republican, in that not signing it would run counter to his past support for pouring more funding into training local officers.
His move to back it drew plaudits from law enforcement circles, where local chiefs argued the state’s training fund needed a dedicated revenue source beyond an annual budget allotment.
“This is definitely a long time coming,” said Chelsea Police Chief Brian Kyes, president of the Massachusetts Major City Chiefs. “It’s a nominal impact of $2 for one [rental] contract. In the aggregate, it will be able to generate the amount of money to take training to the next level.”